"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

BE A FREEMASON

Thursday, May 27, 2021

History Channel: America's Book of Secrets


by Christopher Hodapp

So nobody tells me these things anymore. I didn't realize this was going to be aired this week until I got a flurry of "Hey, you were on TV" messages.

The History Channel (aka History®) has updated an older series entitled America's Book of Secrets with new episodes this season. Tuesday night, Season 4/Episode 3: The Freemason Factor aired and featured interviews with myself, Brothers Arturo De Hoyos, Akram Elias, Jeff Ballou, plus 
The Craft author John Dickie and others. We actually shot my stuff last October, but the show was delayed for several months due to the COVID shutdowns that prevented the production company from getting all the scenes they needed.

Close your mouth, stupid, before you swallow a fly.

The show airs on Tuesday nights, but it can be seen online at: https://play.history.com/shows/americas-book-of-secrets/season-4/episode-3

(Easter egg bonus for Indianapolis Masons: catch fleeting glimpses of the Scottish Rite Cathedral's stained glass of the letter G, and a glass scene of Solomon and Hiram from Calvin Prather Lodge.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Encouraging Local Volunteerism In Your Masonic Lodge


by Christopher Hodapp

Are members of your lodge especially active in volunteering in your community? Or are you looking for ways to get your lodge involved in local volunteer programs to help your town or neighborhood? For many years, Americorps and the Points of Light global network have jointly awarded the President's Volunteer Service Awards to hundreds of individuals and organizations all over the U.S. in recognition of their dedication and service to local communities. Masons and Masonic lodges are among the different types of civic, social, religious and non-profit organizations that qualify for the award.



From the program's website:
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.

The PVSA has continued under each administration since that time, honoring the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation. Led by the AmeriCorps and managed in partnership with Points of Light, this program allows Certifying Organizations to recognize their most exceptional volunteers.
In order for a lodge to participate and make its members eligible, it must become a Certifying Organization by filling out an application and taking a short quiz to be sure you understand the program's requirements.
A Certifying Organization is an organization that has been granted authority through an application and review process to give out the PVSA to volunteers. Certifying Organizations verify and certify that a volunteer has met the requirements to receive a PVSA within a 12 month period specified by the Certifying Organization. Only Certifying Organizations can certify volunteers’ eligibility for the PVSA and order awards.

Certifying Organizations must be established and operate in the United States, its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands), or on overseas U.S. military and state installations. Additionally, Certifying Organizations must receive or facilitate volunteer service.

The award has several different levels, depending upon how many hours in a 12-month period are provided by an individual or (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Lifetime) for "unpaid acts of volunteer service benefitting others." 

In the agreement, your lodge becomes a certifying organization that keeps careful track of how many hours are volunteered, who performed that service, and reporting them to the awards program. The lodge also agrees to cover the cost of the award package itself, which, if you go whole hog on the options, costs less than $30. The award can include the official President’s Volunteer Service Award pin, coin, or medallion; a personalized certificate of achievement; and letter signed by the President.


Once the proper level of hours is reached, the lodge nominates that member for the award, and confers it when it arrives. The award is also accompanied by a congratulatory letter from the sitting President of the United States. Before anyone starts caterwauling about presidential politics, understand that every president since George W. Bush has supported this program. It is a completely non-partisan program designed to recognize and reward volunteerism, and Americorps relies on you as their certifying organization to tabulate the hours and apply for the awards.


Also have a look at the Points Of Light Global Network website for ways to get your local lodge involved in civic volunteerism. Groups like United Way work with churches, lodges and other similar groups to pair volunteers with programs in the community.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Monday: Conversation With John Dickie, Author of 'The Craft'


by Christopher Hodapp

On Monday, May 24th, the Rubicon Masonic Society, Kentucky's William O. Ware Lodge of research, and Lexington lodge No. 1 will feature an online presentation with Mr. John Dickie, the author of the recent book, The Craft - How The Freemasons Made the Modern World. The program will begin at 7:00 p.m., EST.

I've been remiss for some time now in not mentioning the ongoing video presentations of Rubicon, the WOW LOR, and Lexington Lodge. There continues to be outstanding work and leadership coming out of Lexington, Kentucky, and they have been putting on outstanding video presentations since the COVID shutdowns began last year.


If you haven't read Dickie's The Craft, you should if you have any interest in learning about just how important Freemasonry has been throughout its centuries of existence.

The press' reaction to The Craft has been remarkably unusual for these days. When it was published last fall, English reviewers kept their usual anti-Masonic sniping to themselves and generally praised the book as being informative, evenhanded, and "eye-opening" (in a GOOD way). The book covers a pretty wide breadth, telling the history of the Craft since the 1500s by highlighting various individual Masons (and occasional non-Masons) who influenced its development. Considering the scope of the subject matter, Dickie does a good job of placing the fraternity in the context of the wider society surrounding it in different times and places. As Masons, we often have a bad case of tunnel vision by failing to look at the larger picture of what was happening in society in any given period that had big impact on the fraternity. 


To answer the obvious question, John Dickie is not a Mason — his grandfather was, but he is not a Mason himself. He is a University College of London Professor of Italian studies, and the author of several books about the Italian Mafia, most notably, The Cosa Nostra (2005) and Blood Brotherhoods (2014). 


UPDATE MAY 25, 2021






Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' First Trailer Lands



by Christopher Hodapp

Earlier this week, NBC/Universal released the first preview for Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (formerly known as Langdon; formerly known as Dan Brown's Langdon) airing on their Peacock streaming service later this year. Based on the 2009 novel and Da Vinci Code sequel by Brown, the Masonic-themed story was one of the most hotly anticipated books in the publishing business. More than 1 million copies of The Lost Symbol were sold world-wide on the very first day when it was eventually released in 2009. But the long delay between his blockbuster books convinced the rest of the publishing and entertainment world to try to cash in on Brown-mania during the lull. The 2004 hit movie, National Treasure, never would have seen the light of day had Brown not let the cat out of the bag that his next Big Book would be about Freemasons in Washington, D.C., but took six years to actually publish it. For that matter, most of my earliest books would never have been published, either. Certainly not by mainstream publishers.

The Lost Symbol was the third novel to feature Brown's 'symbologist' character, Robert Langdon, who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in three big-budget, theatrical movies. This pilot film was initially planned to air on the NBC broadcast network, but now the subsequent series will be a flagship show for the fledgling Peacock pay streaming service, instead.


The original story line of the novel has been shifted to occur before The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons. Ashley Zuckerman (from Designated Survivor) portrays symbologist Robert Langdon shortly after his graduation from Harvard (and much younger than Tom Hanks' version in three previous theatrical films of Brown's novels). Langdon must solve a twisted mystery to save his university mentor, Peter Solomon (played by comedian and actor, Eddie Izzard) and prevent a mysterious nemesis from unleashing terrible destruction on Washington, D.C.

Brown's plot in The Lost Symbol revolved around many Masonic clues and landmarks in Washington, including the Scottish Rite SJ's House of the Temple headquarters. Masons everywhere enjoyed the novel and the public spotlight it brought to the fraternity, but were disappointed when Hollywood passed over it as a big-money picture to make Inferno instead. Because of certain plot points, the story as written wasn't exactly visually promising, since easily 20% of the story takes place in total darkness.

Unfortunately, there are no Masonic references or symbols onscreen in the trailer (although one sequence shows Langdon discovering a 'Chamber of Reflection' hidden deep in the basement under the U.S. Capitol building). However, I have it on good authority that Freemasonry is well represented in the film – or at least it was shot that way. We'll see how much survives the editorial process. A long production shutdown due to the pandemic last year put the crew and the whole project on ice for months. The show was largely shot in Canada, and yes, the crew actually reproduced the Capitol dome's rotunda and Statuary Hall on a soundstage. I haven't heard whether they also reproduced the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple, or of it even made it into the script. 


Sunday, May 09, 2021

'Bowling Alone' Author Robert Putnam Webinar May 21st


by Christopher Hodapp

Social science researcher Robert Putnam will be featured in a free webinar on May 21, 2021 between 10:00 am and 11:30 am. The author of Bowling Alone will be discussing his latest book, The Upswing: How American Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.


Back in 2000 when Robert Putnam first published Bowling Alone, his landmark study of the decline of social and civic engagement over the previous 50 years, Masonic leaders jumped on it like ducks on a Junebug. His study began when he noticed that bowling alleys in the 1990s were doing a booming business, yet organized bowling clubs were vanishing. More Americans were bowling by themselves than ever before, but it was no longer the group-participation activity it had been for decades before. And the more Putnam and his Harvard team poked around, they found that pattern repeated over and over: Americans were turning in on themselves and choosing solitary pursuits, while shunning in-person groups, clubs, associations and group activities. People were more disconnected from family, neighbors, friends, and — perhaps most alarming of all — from civic participation in democratic institutions and activities than at any time before.

Putnam's study laid out the sobering truth in black and blue that nearly every in-person, voluntary associative organization — from the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts, to PTAs and card-playing clubs — had diminished in participation, size and influence. People were still technically joining clubs and groups, but they were most commonly distant, non-participation organizations like the Sierra Club, the National Rifle Association, the ASPCA, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, etc. Send them your credit card payment every year and you get an ID card, a bumper sticker, maybe a magazine subscription. But none of them place any demand on your time, effort or participation. And you sure don't get to know your fellow club members, much less go out for a beer with them.

Masonic leaders, in particular, could at least comfort themselves in knowing that our straight-line decline in membership ever since 1958 wasn't peculiar only to our fraternity. At least we weren't alone. And we still aren't. We're twenty years beyond Putnam's first examination of the issue, and our declining membership numbers have stayed on their same downward trajectory that started 63 years ago.

Putnam's book became a huge bestseller, and he popularized a social science concept called social capital: the shared values, norms, trust, and sense of belonging that make social interaction possible. Social capital is what binds people together for their mutual benefit. And when we share less and less in common with our neighbors and fellow citizens, society falls apart. (I also strongly recommend Charles Murray's outstanding book, Coming Apart.)

That brings us back to the mission of Freemasonry, which is to improve society by binding together men from all walks of life with shared concepts and philosophy, while avoiding sectarian and political differences that so frequently divide people, "to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection which unites us into one sacred band or society of friends and brothers, among whom should exist no contention, except that noble contention, or rather, emulation, of who best can work and best agree."


Last year, Putnam released a 20th anniversary edition of Bowling Alone with a new, additional data-filled chapter in the end that examines what has occurred since its initial publication. His new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again (2020), is a broad study of 20th century American economic, social, political, and cultural trends.


To join the May 21st webinar, see the Social Capital Research & Training website HERE. There is also a form to fill out in case you want to pose a question directly to Robert Putnam.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Six Arrested For Planning Terrorist Attacks on French Masonic Lodge and Past Grand Master


by Christopher Hodapp

The French press is reporting the Tuesday arrest of six members of what authorities are calling a "small neo-Nazi group" who were allegedly planning a violent attack on a Masonic lodge in Thionville. Thionville is located in Moselle, a department in Alsace-Lorraine in northeastern France. 

National anti-terrorism investigators have been observing the group since February. In a separate article reported yesterday, their plans also included an attack on the immediate Past Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France (2018-21), Jean-Philippe Hubsch, who is from Thionville.

From Franceinfo.fr and AFP:
Six members of a small neo-Nazi group, suspected of wanting to take violent action against a Masonic lodge, were arrested Tuesday, May 4 in the Doubs and Bas-Rhin, a judicial source confirmed on Friday to France Televisions. Three of them, two men and a woman aged 29 to 56, must be presented this Friday to a Parisian examining magistrate with a view to possible indictment for "criminal terrorist association", according to this source. The other three individuals were released.

According to BFMTV , this small group is called "Honor and Nation" and [their plans were] aimed at a Masonic lodge in Moselle. The national anti-terrorism prosecutor's office (Pnat) opened a preliminary investigation in February 2021 into the activities of this tiny ultra-right group. According to this judicial source, the [attack] was not imminent. These individuals were arrested following exchanges, and in particular because they were researching explosives. Searches have enabled the authorities to find weapons, but they could be legally detained, said the judicial source.

L'Est Republican reports:

The [current] Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France Pierre-Marie Adam said he learned "with amazement" of this planned attack on a Masonic lodge in Moselle. In a statement, he congratulated "all the police services concerned, placed under the authority of the prefect Laurent Nuñez, national coordinator of intelligence and the fight against terrorism, for their speed and efficiency".
France Bleu posted a very brief statement from Past Grand Master Hubsch:
Jean-Philippe Hubsch has not received any threats lately, but says he is worried despite everything : "I was amazed when I learned this today, even more when I was told that I would have been the potential target. It's a semi-surprise because as a former Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, I have been exposed throughout my tenure. But in the world we live in, with a resurgence of political or religious extremists, I am unfortunately not surprised "
According to the various reports, the anti-terrorism prosecutor's office has had the group under investigation since February. The suspects were conducting online research into explosives and weapons. Reportedly, they had been in contact with Rémy Daillet-Weidemann, who is notorious as a major French conspiracy peddler and currently lives in Malaysia, dodging an international arrest warrant. The former president of the MoDem political party in Haute-Garonne was recently ousted from his own party. Daillet-Weidemann frequently accuses Freemasonry of being a "pedo-satanic obedience." In October 2020, he gave a speech in which he said, "I will ban Masonry and all other dangerous sects that pass over the heads of citizens," and he regularly calls for the overthrow of France's government.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Video: UGLE Modernizing Freemasonry and Seeking New Members


by Christopher Hodapp

The Daily Mail posted a very positive video story on Thursday by reporter Jess King about the United Grand Lodge of England. Grand Secretary David Staples speaks about their efforts to seek new, younger members. Also featured are three young Brethren speaking about their own reasons for joining.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Masonic Sightseeing in Lafayette, Indiana with Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research



by Christopher Hodapp

On Saturday, the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research spent the day exploring Masonic sites around Lafayette, Indiana: the Tippecanoe Battlefield where the Grand Lodge placed a historical marker in 1966; the beautiful Battle Ground Lodge (which has just been restored following a wintertime flood from the roof); and the one of a kind J. H. Rathbone Museum of fraternal order ephemera from the Golden Age of fraternalism.


Masonic marker memorializing the death of Kentucky Grand Master Joseph Hamilton Daveiss
and other Masons at the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park.


While at the park, we had the opportunity to tour the on-site museum. We had 27 Masons and guests in attendance, and the weather was absolutely perfect.

Next was a visit to the Masonic hall of Battle Ground Lodge 313.




WB Dave Hosler was our host for the day and gave a presentation at Battle Ground Lodge about a brother elected as Master of the lodge at age 24 who survived World War I, but tragically died in the flu pandemic of 1918 before he could be installed.





The lodge's entry features artwork by Indiana Masonic 
artist Steven McKim, originally a member of Octagon Lodge, 
which subsequently merged with Battle Ground lodge.

Our third stop for the day was at the J.H. Rathbone Museum. Located in a former Knights of Pythias meeting hall in Lafayette, the museum is one of the largest collections of costumes, regalia, artwork, medals, ephemera and rituals from literally hundreds of fraternal groups that flourished throughout the U.S. between the Civil War and the 1930s. Curator Ken Moder, members of the museum's board, and other local volunteers have been sorting and organizing in recent years, and there were several in our group who had been unaware of just how extensive the collection really is.



Joining us for the day was Heather Calloway, her husband Todd, and their son, Simon. Heather worked for many years at the Scottish Rite SJ House of the Temple in Washington DC, and she’s now teaching at IU in Bloomington in the Museum Studies department. A fascinating project is getting underway in Bloomington which will be of great interest to Masons and others interested in the subject of fraternal organizations, and Heather is spearheading it. News will be forthcoming.

My deepest thanks to WB Dave Hosler for handling the day’s arrangements and Ken Moder for opening the Museum for us. But I especially want to thank everyone who attended. The COVID pandemic and shutdowns hurled a large monkey wrench into our lodge plans over the last 14 months, and I was happy we were able to make this work out just before our Masonic year ends in mid-May. The consensus among everyone Saturday afternoon was that we should have other similar events like this in the coming years.

The Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research operates as a lodge under dispensation at the will and pleasure of the Grand Master, so we will have new appointed officers later this month. It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as Master of our research lodge over the last two years, and I thank all of our officers and members for their support.

For more information about the lodge, including membership or affiliation, visit our website at http://dlslodgeofresearch.net

Photos: Dave Hosler, Heather Calloway, Chris Hodapp

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Calling All Wishful Masters - All Aboard For the Clandyland Express!

by Christopher Hodapp

Well, golly! The Clandyland Express has chugged into Indianapolis! There's apparently a brand, spankin' new "Masonic lodge" right here in my own hometown! 

So-called.

The so-called "Sovereign Grand Lodge of Universal Supreme Council Of The 33rd And Last Degree, Incorporated,"  so called, has just issued a so-called "charter" establishing the so-called "T. L'Overture Lodge No. 5." 



That 'incorporated' sure makes it official! (I guess that makes sense to name an Indiana lodge after Toussaint L'Overture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s, since this document is claiming that the SGLofUSC33aLD, Inc. is a part of the so-called "Haitian Federation of Masons AF & AM").

Click the image to enlarge it and get the full effect of this so-called "charter." It empowers the "lodge" to hold "Regular and Special Communications at will, when called by the Wishful Master..."

Hey, spellcheck typos happen to the best of us, right?

Except that it goes on, "[T]he Wishful Master empowered to discipline the craft and settle disputes among the members and all Masons or non-affiliated brethren within its jurisdiction..."

It's signed with three very florid signatures, including the Most Puissant Sovereign Grand Commander (!) who included his rank "33°/96" which implies there are really 96 degrees in their system, which is curious when they call themselves "Sovereign Grand Lodge of Universal Supreme Council Of The 33rd And Last Degree."

Oh, details, details.

One wonders if their officers process into lodge while singing 'When You Wish Upon A Star?'

If you're a legitimately regular Master Mason in the U.S. in a recognized jurisdiction, your ritual likely exhorted you to have no 'Masonic intercourse' with clandestine Masons. Clandestine groups like this are exactly what your ritual was talking about.

People who join 'Masonic' lodges under the jurisdictions that are considered irregular, clandestine, bogus and unrecognized by the principal grand lodge in a state (or country) will not be allowed to visit and interact with the overwhelming majority of the Masonic world, outside of their own isolated group. That's just truth in advertising, and people should understand what they are joining, and what they are not. Unfortunately, people tend to join organizations that their friends, family or co-workers do, and bogus groups are somewhat self-perpetuating. They are often fueled by new public awareness of Freemasonry from media sources.

Masonic regularity and recognition are issues that make outsiders' eyes glaze over, but I think ALL regular and overwhelmingly recognized grand lodges need to address the issue on their public material. It would help to put a stop to - or at least slow down - the practice, and guide potential new members to the more widely welcoming world of Masonry.

There are hundreds of small 'grand lodges' or independent lodges at work, and many of them are listed by the Prince Hall research group, the Phylaxis Society. The Phylaxis Society's Commission on Bogus Masonic Practices listing was at one time quite exhaustive, but the new ones multiply faster than bunnies in a hutch. New ones pop up every day, and the Phylaxis site is woefully out of date at this point. While these phony groups can be found all over, they can be especially prolific in black communities. As is stated on the Phylaxis site, "There are more African American Bogus Grand Lodges in the United States than there are Legitimate Grand Lodges around the World." Sadly, opportunists see a chance to cash in on an ancient fraternity's history and reputation, and thus the problem continues. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Midwest Conference on Masonic Education 2021 Presentations Online


by Christopher Hodapp


The Midwest Conference on Masonic Education didn't take place last year because of the COVID pandemic shutdowns. The 2021 event last weekend was originally to be held in Illinois, but out of an abundance of caution, organizers chose to make it a virtual conference.

Consequently, several presentations this year were made via video, and those programs are now posted online. 

They include:
  • Personalizing Freemasonry - Chad Kopenski
  • Truth - Spencer Hamaan
  • Facilitating Dialogue: Introduction to Guided Discussion - Chuck Dunning
  • Panel discussions
Also, a pair of papers from Richard Lacoursiere are online:
  • Whither Are You Traveling? 
  • Leaders Eat Last

The 2022 Conference will held April 29 - May 1, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Video presentations from previous years can be found on the MCME YouTube channel HERE.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Breaking: S. Carolina PGM Mike Smith Expulsion Overturned; Lodges Restored


by Christopher Hodapp

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED Friday, April 23, 2021, 11:00p.m.

Messages from Day One of the annual session of the Grand Lodge A.F.M. of South Carolina are reporting that the assembled voting members have overwhelmingly overturned the January expulsion of Past Grand Master Michael D. Smith, and restored his Masonic record. 

Additionally, the two lodges that had their charters revoked by GM Disher – Union-Kilwinning Lodge No. 4 and Landrum Lodge No. 278 – have had their charters restored, with the recommendation that outstanding charges against them be dropped. 

It appears that South Carolina Masons are collectively attempting to erase the battles and dramas of the last year and let wisdom prevail. Grand officer elections take place on Friday.

UPDATE FRIDAY:

Day 2: Grand officer nominations and elections were held Friday morning. The voting members of the Grand Lodge A.F.M. of South Carolina broke with tradition and elected a respected Past Grand Master to lead their fraternity, instead of advancing last year's slate of officers forward. 

Last year's Deputy Grand Master, RW O. Bruce Smith, III, was nominated and expected to advance to GM in their normally progressive line. But in an overwhelming vote of repudiation (described as "over 500 to just over 100"), the Grand Lodge nominated and elected MW Ronald C. Mitchum, who previously served as Grand Master in 2005-2007, to preside in the Grand East for 2021-22 (and likely 2023). They also rejected the expected nominee for Junior Grand Warden, instead electing A. C. Flora IV to the position.

South Carolina Grand Master Ronald C. Mitchum
(2005-07, 2021-)

The newly elected 2021-22 Grand Lodge officers are:
MWB Ronald C. Mitchum - Grand Master
RWB Steven D Hames - Deputy Grand Master
RWB Thomas Watson - Senior Grand Warden
RWB A. C. Flora IV - Junior Grand Warden
MWB Jack A. Marler, PGM - Grand Treasurer
MWB Gerald L. Carver, PGM - Grand Secretary
RWB A. Robert Nix - Grand Chaplain

It's always difficult to dispassionately report events I haven't witnessed for myself, but one final incident was reported at the conclusion of Friday's meeting that I hope is not a fabrication. The story goes that now-Past Grand Master Cal Disher rose to adjourn the meeting. As he finished, he declared, 'I hope you're all happy with your decisions,' and smacked his gavel so hard on the podium that its handle snapped in two. 

There is now a discussion to treat the broken gavel as a historical object, preserve it, and present it each year to each incoming Grand Master as a cautionary symbol.

It's a shame that schools don't teach Latin any more. When it came to commentaries on the use or abuse of power and authority, the Romans sure knew their potatoes.

"Sic transit gloria mundi."

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

'The Plot Thickens' in the GL of South Carolina as Annual Meeting Looms


by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATE: This story has been updated on April 21, 2021. The original story incorrectly stated that GM Disher declared that PGM Mike Smith's reinstatement by the Appeals & Grievances Committee would make the Grand Lodge "liable for a lawsuit." This remark was actually made by PGM Jay Adam Pearson. My apologies for the error.

Over the last week, several emails have been making the rounds out of the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina concerning the January trial and expulsion of Past Grand Master Michael D. Smith. As reported here in February, Smith was expelled from the fraternity by current South Carolina Grand Master Walter C. "Cal" Disher II for violating his edict forbidding Masonic meetings conducted by Internet teleconferencing software, like Zoom. The charges brought against Smith were for authorizing Zoom meetings for the Scottish Rite Valleys throughout the state in his role as their SGIG for the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction. 

Now, the plot, as they say in cheap potboilers, thickens. The Grand Lodge of South Carolina will be holding its annual communication this week on April 22nd and 23rd. In the run-up to that session, South Carolina's Jurisprudence and Appeals & Grievances committees both convened last week to accomplish the usual preliminary business that commonly takes place just before Masonic grand sessions nearly everywhere.

It is the Jurisprudence Committee's job to look over the actions of the sitting Grand Master taken during his term of office to determine if he was correct in his decisions and activities, or if he violated any of the rules of their constitution (the South Carolina Ahimon Rezon). Typically, a grand master provides a lengthy report that outlines all of his activities since taking office in the written form of a formal address (or oration). And then the various committees weigh in on the GM's actions and report whether or not he violated any of their constitution. 

Because of the COVID pandemic shut downs last year, GM Disher was compelled by state health laws and an abundance of caution for his more elderly and at-risk members to cancel their annual session in 2020, and all previously elected Grand Lodge officers would stay in their positions for another year. So GM Disher's address was quite lengthy after two years.

(South Carolina grand masters traditionally serve for two one-year terms. Disher was elected GM in 2019, so April 2020 through April 2021 was to have been his second term anyway, if tradition had been followed. With the annual meeting canceled, his second year in the job was a foregone conclusion, as in so many other U.S. jurisdictions this past year. Like it or not, grand lodges must adhere to the rules set down by federal, state and local governments. So I can't really work up support for those alleging anywhere that their grand masters usurped power last year by canceling annual meetings.)

2019-2021 Grand Master Walter C. 'Cal' Disher II

GM Disher presented his whopping 42-page official address to the Jurisprudence Committee last week for review. On Thursday in a 6-3 decision, six Past Grand Masters on the Jurisprudence Committee ruled that the trial of PGM Mike Smith had been unfair, and rejected the portion of Disher's address dealing with Smith's guilty verdict and expulsion. In an anonymous email account of the vote sent to me that was attempting to support and justify the GM's actions, by failing to agree with his decision and actions, those six members of the Committee are themselves now guilty of a Masonic offense and may themselves face charges.

Then, in what was a second repudiation of GM Disher, on Friday, the Appeals & Grievances Committee reportedly ruled in an initial 4-2 decision that misconduct had taken place during the trial of PGM Smith, that the verdict should be nullified, and that Smith should be reinstated. According to multiple sources, PGM Jay Adam Pearson (who was part of the trial commission for Smith's expulsion) chastised the committee, angrily declared that, if Smith was reinstated by this decision, the Grand Lodge would be "liable for a lawsuit," and demanded the Committee re-vote. The result of that second vote was to uphold Disher's actions and the results of the trial. And because of the furor caused in the state by the initial online reporting of Smith's trial and expulsion, the result of the Committee's vote was not to be leaked ahead of time until it is presented on the floor of the annual meeting.

Obviously, that didn't work out so well. Gag rules rarely do.

There are still as-yet unanswered allegations that the arresting of Landrum Lodge charter (PGM Smith's mother lodge in which his son was Junior Warden) by GM Disher was also improper. It's probable that it too will be addressed in the Jurisprudence Committee's official report.

I've been sent conflicting information about these meetings and decisions, and there's a Rashomon-like feel to the widely differing descriptions of trials, conversations, votes, and (naturally) personalities involved. The unsettling image that emerges is an enormous Jenga tower falling to pieces, as charges, counter charges,  longtime friendships, personal allegiances, and a seemingly endless string of more threats of suspensions and expulsions all unfold. In one stack of material, there are numerous statements, angrily tarring numerous longtime Masons with more allegations of 'un-Masonic conduct' for failing to rubber stamp the GM's decisions. 'They voted the wrong way too, and THAT'S un-Masonic! We'll have THEM up on charges next!' is the theme that runs throughout. 

There's an unfortunate aura of the Caine Mutiny trial scene in much of this. And that's the material that is supposed to be making the case FOR the Grand Master. 

The annual session will take place this coming Thursday and Friday, and the GM has placed limits on how many may attend – again due to COVID restrictions. Next in line for election as the new Grand Master is current Deputy Grand Master, O.B. Smith, but there are rumors that one or more other candidates for GM may be nominated from the floor. And the assembled members of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina must also vote to affirm or deny the Jurisprudence and Appeals & Grievances committee reports. If the result of those votes reverse the actions of GM Disher, it's entirely possible that PGM Mike Smith may be reinstated by their action. 

Of course, the next question on the minds of many South Carolina Masons is, will the next elected GM (whoever it may be) allow the waters to calm and the Craft in his state to heal? Or will he follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and keep pursuing the example of more suspensions, expulsions and charter yanking in an attempt to enforce the 'authority and dignity' of the office by wrecking the Masonic careers of brethren who have devoted so much to the fraternity for so long? "Because I said so" is a lousy motivator for a voluntary organization that depends on the work and good will of its devoted members.

Would that there was a respected, gray-headed sage in South Carolina who could stand up on the floor of the annual meeting next week and make some calming and uniting statement or entreaty to cool the anger on all sides, set aside the trial decisions and expulsions, and convince the room to do what it takes to restore harmony without destroying Masonic careers. But I doubt that will happen, and more’s the pity. I fear this entire melodrama may result in the loss of far too many members resigning in disgust. And that’s the ultimate tragedy of this mess.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Dedication of Masonic Marker April 24th: Author Dwight L. Smith



by Christopher Hodapp

Next Saturday, April 24th, 2021, Grand Master Kenneth Roy, Jr. and the officers of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana will dedicate a new Masonic historical marker in memory of Indiana Past Grand Master and Past Grand Secretary, Dwight L. Smith.

The dedication of the new marker will be held on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Salem Lodge No. 21, located at 506 West Poplar Street in Salem, Indiana. This will be the first Masonic historical marker erected officially by the Grand Lodge since 1978.


Dwight Smith was born in Pennville, Indiana in 1909, and he was a member of Salem Lodge No. 21 for 59 years. For many years, he also served as the local editor for Salem’s hometown newspaper, the Salem Republican-Leader.

Dwight Smith passed away in 1993 and was internationally honored as an author and leader whose influence was felt throughout the Masonic fraternity. Dwight served as the Grand Secretary for 32 years, and editor of the Indiana Freemason Magazine officially or unofficially from 1945 until 1991. He was an author of books, hundreds of articles, and Masonic plays. Throughout his career, he was honored with countless awards all over the world. Indiana Masons today largely know him for writing 'Goodly Heritage,' a history of Indiana Freemasonry, in 1968. His booklets, 'Why This Confusion in the Temple?' and 'Whither Are We Traveling?' were published in the early 1960s, and continue to inspire and influence Masons all over the world.

The marker erected to Dwight Smith will be the second such Masonic marker placed by the Grand Lodge in historic Salem, Indiana. Several hundred feet away in Salem’s Crown Hill Cemetery, the Grand Lodge dedicated a plaque to the memory of John Hay Farnham. He served as one of our earliest Grand Lecturers in 1820-21, and as Junior grand Warden in 1821-22. 

Farnham was a passionate campaigner for the new State of Indiana to open public schools at a time when just one out of every eight Hoosier children were able to read. Beginning in 1826, he battled for the cause of public education for the rest of his life. Farnham was also the foundering secretary of the Indiana Historical Society in 1830. Salem’s historic Pioneer Village museum is named after him - the John Hay Farnham Historical Center.

The Farnham marker was first erected in 1972, and was recently restored by local Masons in Salem. It will be re-dedicated by the Grand Lodge at Saturday's event.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Suspected Vancouver Arsonist Faces More Charges in Masonic Hall Fires

Charred remains of the Masonic Temple in Lynn Valley in 
North Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. 
(Photo: Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)


by Christopher Hodapp


British Columbia prosecutors have filed additional charges in connection with the burning of three metropolitan Vancouver Masonic halls last week. The principal suspect, 42-year-old Benjamin Orion Carlson Kohlman, was charged the day after his arrest with three offenses connected with a fire set at the Park Masonic Hall in northeastern Vancouver. He was charged with arson, assault of a peace officer, and failing to stop for a peace officer. 

The new, additional charges filed today against Kohlman are connected with the two earlier fires set that same morning. According to Global News Service, he was charged with two more counts of arson and three additional counts of breaking and entering and committing arson.

The Park Masonic Hall was the last of three Masonic lodges that were set ablaze last Tuesday morning over a 45-minute period in the northern suburbs of Vancouver. Kohlman was spotted carrying a gasoline can and leaving the scene of the Park temple just as a fire was spotted burning near its entrance. An off-duty police officer attempted to take him into custody, but Kohlman knocked the officer down and sped away. He was arrested shortly after that incident.

The three targeted lodges were Lynn Valley Lodge Hall, Lonsdale Masonic Temple (also known as the North Vancouver Masonic centre), and Park Masonic Hall. The 110-year-old Lonsdale building was a total loss and had to be demolished after fire crews extinguished the flames.


See also: 

• March 30 - Three Vancouver Masonic Halls Torched By Arsonist

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Philadelphia Masonic Temple Modeled at Legoland


by Christopher Hodapp

The master builders at Legoland Discovery Center in Plymouth Meeting, PA have made a scale model of the beautiful and historic Philadelphia Masonic Temple. In the video, builder Mike Nieves says the Temple has some 16,000 pieces and took 150 hours to construct. Watch the video above, or click HERE.

Lodge Presents Charges Against South Carolina Grand Master and Officers


by Christopher Hodapp

It was almost 160 years ago to the day, on April 12, 1861, when the South Carolina militia opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina and kicked off the Civil War, the bloodiest war in U.S. history. I was thinking of that today as I went through all this material.

Union-Kilwinning Lodge No. 4 is the oldest continuously operating Masonic lodge in South Carolina. Yesterday, Past Master William 'Billy' Wall, who serves as Secretary of Union-Kilwinning Lodge, sent a 10-page packet of material detailing charges his lodge is making alleging un-Masonic conduct against current Grand Master Cal M. Disher, Deputy Grand Master O. Bruce Smith, and District Deputy Grand Master Steve Hiott.

Click image to enlarge

To get the fullest possible understanding of the situation, you need to start with the Union-Kilwinning webpage and a blog entry titled, "The First Encounter." (CLICK HERE) That long entry details events in November and December last year when the lodge attempted to hold its meetings and officer elections.

In October, GM Disher issued new guidelines detailing what lodges needed to do in order to restart stated meetings under COVID restrictions: as few members as constitutionally allowed; masks and social distancing; no electronic communication... all the standard stuff.  Apparently, all hell broke out at the December meeting of Union Kilwinning and their elections when "three ruffians" showed up in succession in the course of the evening: Steve Hiott, District Deputy Grand Master, O. Bruce Smith, Deputy Grand Master, and the Grand Master himself, Cal M. Disher. Disher revoked their charter and reportedly ordered an arrest warrant issued by the sheriff's office, accusing the lodge of stealing its own property.

(Interestingly, one curious aspect of the story is that neither the DGM nor the GM identified themselves, and were wearing their COVID masks when they angrily demanded entry and ordered all activity to cease. Face it - with these masks all of us have to wear, we all look like we're dressed for a liquor store holdup, and muffled conversations sound like a hostage phone call.)

The material is much too detailed and complex for me to properly encapsulate it here, so I encourage you to read "The First Encounter" for yourself. Part of this fight turns on the minimum number of members required to open a MM lodge. South Carolina's rules and adopted 'Landmarks' are among the oldest in the United States, and they are sometimes quite different from the way the majority of grand lodges operate. According to Secretary Walls' account, South Carolina requires only six attending, whereas the majority of the U.S. requires seven. According to the allegations, GM Disher improperly issued an edict late in the year declaring the minimum must be seven. 

The lodge is also alleging that the Grand Master did not have the authority to cancel the annual meeting and remain in office beyond his term, and that he has issued multiple edicts that violate their Ahimon Rezon book of constitutions.

And then there are the assault and battery charges...

The information packet sent to all of the lodges in South Carolina was posted online HERE. The lodge has taken their case to the voting members before their scheduled communication in April. That is also when they are expecting their Masonic trial to be held. 

Not to be easily thwarted, the Grand Secretary for South Carolina pronounced that the letter and its contents may NOT be read in open lodge, and has further demanded that every single lodge pack up their letter and mail it directly to him. Right.

Because, you know, cell phones, Xeroxes, computer copies, scanners, printers, and other forms of duplicating and sharing documents don't exist in South Carolina. One could just faintly hear the collective laughter of SC secretaries here, from five states away.

I wish the brethren of Union-Killwinning lots of luck going forward, but suspect this won't end well. Their blog post "Why Cal Disher is the Past Grand Master, and the GL is irregular" is a curious logic thread to attempt to follow. Their reasoning is that, because Cal Disher cancelled 2020's annual meeting, he violated their constitution. At the close of the meeting, the GM and all GL officers must renew their oath of office (SC GMs generally serve two years). That wasn't done, because no meeting. According to the post:

Ahiman Rezon, Article 38. (~Pg. 308) reads "In the absence of the Grand Master from the Grand Lodge, the Chair SHALL (there is that word again) be taken by the Deputy Grand Master; in his absence by the Grand Wardens, in order of priority of rank; and in the absence of all these officers, by the Master of the oldest Lodge on the registry of the Jurisdiction." There is also a rule in the Ahiman Rezon, Chapter IV Rule 4. (~Pg.196), which reads "When the Grand Master is absent from the Grand Lodge, the chair SHALL be taken by the Deputy. If both are absent, the Senior Grand Warden, or if he be likewise absent, the Junior Grand Warden MUST take the chair. If all these offices are absent, the duties of the Grand Lodge WILL (another word meaning required) devolve upon the Master of the OLDEST LODGE present. Vacancies in the other chairs are to be supplied by the Masters of Lodges, according to seniority."
And without just coming out and saying it, since their lodge is the oldest established, continuously operating lodge in the state, the post is essentially stating their own Worshipful Master is the de facto Grand Master for South Carolina because of this rule, which makes all of Cal Disher's actions since last April null and void. I don't enjoy being a soggy blanket in their time of tribulation, but this can't possibly go well. Especially since their charter's been revoked.

It's entirely possible that the 2021 annual meeting of South Carolina turns out like a Scottish mud wrestling match by the time it's all over, with everybody covered in filth but still yukking it up and hugging each other at the pub afterwards. Or it could turn out to be the equivalent of first shots fired on Fort Sumter, setting off a bloody, bitter war. 

Let's all hope it's the former instead of the latter.